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The abbreviated context of the question is this: I have young children that are too young to name as secondary beneficiaries (my wife is the primary beneficiary) on various accounts. I am creating a revocable living trust, with the children named as beneficiaries, for my will to pass assets to, should my wife and I pass at the same time. That trust would then be named as secondary beneficiary on whatever accounts possible.

The question is this: since trust names do not need to be unique, if I name my trust "The John Doe Family Trust", what prevents someone from coming forward with the same trust name and attempting to lay claim to such assets? I understand that while we're alive the trust is effectively a pass through entity tied to mine and my wife's SSN / taxpayer id. But I'm not sure what happens once we pass.

(I get this a contrived scenario and of course I will confirm everything with a lawyer, I'm just trying to understand as much as I can first.)

  • Wouldn't you specify your children's SSNs and birth date in the trust document? – RonJohn Dec 26 '19 at 0:01
  • SSNs and birth dates may or may not be included ... not essential. – Bob Baerker Dec 26 '19 at 1:34
  • @BobBaerker not essential but very useful. – RonJohn Dec 26 '19 at 1:54
  • @RonJohn - Not as essential or as useful as you might think. When the personal rep takes over the trust, he's the one that must provide death certificates, personal identification, etc. There will be no requirement for the minors to show up, let alone provide SSNs or even their SS card. They're minors and have no legal claim to execute the trust. They're just dependent beneficiaries, wards of the 'estate' . – Bob Baerker Dec 26 '19 at 3:22
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The trust is not a secondary beneficiary. When you retitle your accounts in the name of the trust, the trust becomes the de facto beneficiary which contains your will which spells out the trustee(s) or personal representative(s) (the name varies in different states) as well as how the assets are to be invested and/or divested to your heirs.

I'm not sure if you're hinting at identity theft or just the coincidence of trust names.

For the former, not only would the impostor have to have complete fake ID (SSN, drivers license with picture) but he'd need all of the account numbers, names, passwords, secret question answers, etc. in order to gain access. Possible but it's a real stretch and probably far less likely than someone stealing your assets today (more personal info is required to access trust assets).

For the latter, what's missing from this equation is the full trust name. When created, it will have the date of creation on it, eg. "The John Doe Family Trust dated December 25, 2019". What are the odds that someone created the exact same named trust on the same date? And even if so, don't forget about the perfect ID requirement and. And upon your demise, your trustee will provide your death certificate to the trust in order to step in and manage it for your children if they are still minors. How does someone with the same named trust (with matching date) make a claim against your trust that knows you are dead? It's all a bit convoluted, yes?

Once you pass, your trustee/personal rep handles the trust. For that, you had better give some serious thought.

The bottom line is that these are questions that should be addressed with your attorney.

  • I'm confused by the statement "The trust is not a secondary beneficiary." - that's precisely what it is. It is the individual / entity that would receive the assets should myself and the primary pass at the same time. – Henry Lee Dec 27 '19 at 2:31
  • btw...regarding the odds of two entities with the same date, it's surprisingly high, as explained by the "birthday paradox" :) – Henry Lee Dec 27 '19 at 2:36
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    The Birthday Paradox relates to the probability of two people having the same birthday. What you missed in your offering is that two people have to have the SAME NAME and establish their trust on the SAME DATE. That's a far cry from two people being born on the same date --> "The John Doe Family Trust dated December 25, 2019". – Bob Baerker Dec 27 '19 at 3:18
  • Didn't miss it, just wasn't listing out all the caveats. Another being, for example, the birthday paradox only considers month and day, not year, making it further unlikely. I was just illustrating these things aren't as rare or difficult as they initially seem, particularly given the amount of information about folks continuously being made available via data breaches. – Henry Lee Dec 27 '19 at 13:18
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what prevents someone from coming forward with the same trust name and attempting to lay claim to such assets

The fact that they won't have a notarized document with your signature on it establishing the trust, whereas your trustee will.

  • That's a not so subtle point that slid by all of us. Not only does the perp have to have the same name and as well as creating the trust on the same date as the OP, as well as know the all the details of the accounts where the assets are held but he also has to be able to forge the OP's signature perfectly as well. This premise of trust risk is far fetched. – Bob Baerker Dec 29 '19 at 1:54
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Running a quick check on things owned by trusts, the names in this state for revocable living trusts tend to look like the following:

  • Firstname Middlename Lastname Revocable Trust Dated mm/dd/yyyy
  • Firstname Mi Lastname Revocable Trust Agreement Dated mm/dd/yyyy
  • Firstname Mi Lastname Revocable Trust Under Agreement Dated mm/dd/yyyy
  • Lastname Family Revocable Trust, First1 or First2 Trustees
  • Lastname Revocable Trust
  • Lastname, First1 or First2, The Revocable Living Trust
  • Lastname, The Firstname Mi Revocable Living Trust

Where Mi is middle initial, First1 & First2 are first names of spouses. A quick check of statutes (386, 386A & 386B) do not show a required formula (some types of businesses have a required name formula) for trusts. Your lawyer should know if your state has a required formula for naming the trust.

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